Mumbai: As I wedge my arms underneath the sofa, my phone rings and it’s my sister. I moan, ‘I’ve lost my watch, you know the one I love… with the brown strap! Can’t remember where I left it!’ She replies, ‘People say you should tie a knot in a single strand of your hair and you will find what you are looking for.’ Since that would involve first finding a microscope and a crochet needle, I give her suggestion a pass.
10.40 am: News in my family spreads at the speed of lightning, so I am not surprised when my phone rings and it’s Mother asking about my missing watch. I tell her about my sister’s hairy solution and she says, ‘I don’t know where your sister gets these silly ideas. It’s not your hair, you have to bite the tip of your pinky finger!’
11.30 am: Thanks to Google, I do some dodgy research in three minutes and yes, there are nerves at the tip of our fingers that stimulate the brain. So according to acupressure at least, pressing (or if you are particularly barbaric, biting) your pinky may jolt your memory. Not quite convinced, I call Mother back and ask her, ‘Mom, do you really believe that this biting the pinky works?’ She snorts, ‘Haven’t tried it. Seems a bit far-fetched, if you ask me!’
I screech, ‘I did ask you and you just told me to do it!’ Pat comes her answer, ‘I would never recommend such an idiotic thing. I just told you it’s not a knot in the hair, but biting the pinky, I didn’t say you must do it! You just want to blame me for everything!’ And she promptly hangs up.
1 pm: This is turning out to be a rotten Sunday and as I continue my frantic search, my phone rings for the hundredth time.
It’s an old college friend. I sigh, ‘Anything urgent? Can’t talk now, am doing something. Lost my damn watch and am looking everywhere for it!’
He takes an extensive pause and then in a sleepy voice replies, ‘It’s the doing that leads to the undoing! Things have a way of turning up when they want to be found, though they may not always be the things you actually want to find.’
I thank him for his helpful existential advice while wondering how much dope he has done today that has led to his undoing.
2 pm: The entire family has gathered for lunch at my mother’s house when mother again brings up the topic of my missing watch. My 66-year-old cousin, Tikku chirps up, ‘I will tell you, just repeat Jeevan mama three times and you will find it!’
As I think about trying out her bizarre mystical remedy, visions of men in white coats dragging me off to the mental institution in Andheri flash before my eyes and I squeal, ‘Losing my watch is one thing but I don’t want to look like I am losing my marbles, too!’
To which dear cousin looks at another geriatric bua and whispers in horror, ‘Hey Ram! She still plays with marbles? Was always little mental, even as child!’
My grandmother’s sister helpfully decides to take up my cause by adding, ‘Tikku, Bas kar! Must be playing marbles with her childrens na, it’s okay!’
4 pm: My walking buddy comes over for our regular jaunt around the garden and I tell her about all these odd things we believe in and she says, ‘Most of these superstitions have some sort of scientific basis, you know.’
She grabs a leaf from a tulsi shrub on the side, adding, ‘See, it is believed that Tulsi is a goddess and that it’s disrespectful to chew the leaves, so one should swallow them.
The fact is that the leaves contain mercury, which damage our teeth and that’s probably the basis of this superstition. Then the ‘never sleep with your feet to the south’ bit is also based on the human body’s magnetic field clashing with the Earth’s magnetic field. We started hanging lemon and chilies because it’s a natural pesticide, but who remembers all this anymore.’
I reply, ‘So what do you think is the scientific reason for calling out for Jeevan mama three times?’
My walking buddy splutters, ‘I have no bloody clue, must be some old saint or something, let’s just try it!’ She looks up at the sky and yells out, ‘Jeevan mama! Jeevan mama! Jeevan mama!’ and just as I say, ‘Look out!’ She promptly stumbles into some cruddy dog poo. ‘Well, there,’ I tell her, ‘It worked and you did find something. And in this case, can I add finders keepers?’ You know this reminds me, someone just told me, ‘Things have a way of turning up when they want to be found; though they may not always be the things you actually want to find.’ My friend replies, ‘That’s pretty amazing, he’s a spiritual guide or something?’
And I laugh, ‘No! He is just on drugs.’ And watching our step carefully, we continue walking, performing the manglik’s version of auspicious weddings as we take numerous circles around all the peepals and gulmohars in the garden, till we are both dizzy and by obscure Hindu rites based on some lost science, probably married to the trees by now.